Improving Your Memory, by Janet Fogler and Lynn Stern
I happened to randomly pick up this book, and always being interested in the issue of memory and the mind , I decided to give it a look as it did not look like an overly demanding read. It wasn’t. There are some books which focus on theory and understanding and others which focus on practice, and this book focuses clearly on practice, on the useful tips and tricks one can use to remember things better. Every once in a while books like this can be useful to see what one does automatically or habitually and what reminders one could use to improve one’s techniques. Some people will likely appreciate this book and find a lot more use from it than others, but as most people from time to time find themselves unable to recall a name that is on the tip of their tongue, books like this can be a source of comfort as well as encouragement in seeking to remember things better, and it provides advice that is both thoughtful and practical on research on memory, something a lot of people have a strong interest in.
The contents of this short (roughly 100 page) book are divided into four chapters. The first chapter looks at how memory works, showing the link between sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory and how items move from each type of memory through attention and encoding and recall. The second chapter looks at how memory changes as people age, largely seeking to comfort and encourage those who are growing older by reminding them that even as recall fades they still remember and know more than many young people, and can still learn new things if they are willing and able to adopt some savvy strategies. Chapter three focuses on those factors that negatively effect memory for people of all ages, including: negative expectations, stress, anxiety, depression, loss and grief, inactivity, lack of organization in daily life, fatigue, some physical illnesses like kidney problems, some medications, vision and hearing problems, alcohol, and poor nutrition. After a couple of appendices to this section, the fourth chapter contains some memory improvement strategies and techniques such as association, visualization, elaboration, active observation, writing things down, using sound to trigger memory, changing the surroundings to jog into memory, chunking, storytelling, and searching one’s memory for facts that could serve as cues for recall. This is the part of the book that many readers will likely enjoy the most.
Despite the fact that the book is largely encouraging in its nature and contents, I found a great deal that was poignant about the book. For one, the book is aimed mostly at older audiences, who the author figures are not fully using the strategies that would help them out and are instead frustrated and even fatalistic about memory loss and not doing all that they can to keep their mental function sharp. While the authors try to minimize the numbers of adults who suffer from dementia and other progressive and incurable diseases that affect memory, in many ways this book appears to engage in some whistling past the graveyard. Aging is a depressing experience for many people, with the loss of one’s physical and mental capabilities that one has taken for granted for a lifetime, with the loss of relationships, and the loss of the energy that it takes to do what one wishes to do in life. This is a book that will hopefully of use to many people but will likely be a poignant reminder to many about the ravages of time that so many people have to deal with.
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